Pat Cummins has no plans to rest as Australia captain targets every Ashes Test
Australia captain Pat Cummins insists he plans to play all five games in this summer’s Ashes, despite this week’s World Test Championship guaranteeing a gruelling workload.
Cummins will lead his side out at the Kia Oval on Wednesday looking to defeat India in the second edition of the ICC’s showpiece finale, but despite being a prestigious event in its own right that is just the start of the story.
The most hotly anticipated Ashes series in a generation follows close behind, with all five matches compressed into just over six weeks in a schedule that is sure to challenge minds and bodies, not least among fast bowlers.
England have already made it clear they plan to rotate their attack, with captain Ben Stokes appealing for eight fit seamers to share the load and record wicket-taker James Anderson declaring three games out of five a realistic target.
Resting is a trickier proposition for Cummins in his role as leader, not only of the attack but the team itself, and he is not making plans to stand down.
“I’ll be aiming to play all six,” he told reporters on the eve of the WTC final.
“There’s some good breaks in between every batch of two Test matches, so I think it’s manageable. I mean, it’s a balance. I’ve been exhausted and depleted before but still got up and felt like I did a really good job, but if that comes up at any stage, of course, it’s a conversation.”
Cummins is preparing to win his 50th cap, a landmark that looked a dim and distant prospect during his earlier, injury-ravaged years. At one point his persistent back problems looked like ruining his red-ball career, but he now stands at the very pinnacle of the sport on a tour that could define his legacy in the Test arena.
“I thought getting back into Test cricket was so far away for a lot of that (time),” he said.
“(After) 10 overs a day I would wake up and felt like I had a car crash. When you’re in your fifth cycle of stress fractures, 50 Tests feels like a long way away. Test cricket is tough, you play all around the world, different conditions and physically it is demanding.
“So as a fast bowler to play 50, it is something to be pretty proud of. Particularly because for five or six years it felt like one [more] Test match was a long way away.”
Cummins will be joined by Mitchell Starc and Scott Boland against India, with Josh Hazlewood sidelined by a side strain and Michael Neser just missing out on the final spot.
Boland, 34, made a stunning introduction to international cricket during the 2021-22 Ashes, taking six for seven in the Boxing Day Test the MCG to seal the series. He has already taken 28 wickets in seven Tests and averages a remarkable 13.42.
“Someone like Scotty, it’s just a really simple game-plan – you hit your good areas and you stay there all day and hopefully the ball will do the work for you,” Cummins said.
“He’s had a few bowls over here now and has looked good. But he looks good whenever he bowls. In the past here in England, because the ball does talk a little more, I’ve seen players get too caught up in trying to take wickets every ball because you’ve suddenly got the ball swinging and seaming.”
India are leaving it late to make a decision on the final balance of the side, with the role of spinner Ravichandran Ashwin once again up for debate. He may have to cede his place to an extra seamer, but a late call will be made.
Captain Rohit Sharma, who ended his pre-match net session early after taking a blow to the thumb, is under pressure to deliver India’s first global title since the 2011 World Cup.
“Whether it’s me or someone else, even the guys before me, their role was to take Indian cricket forward and win as many games, as many championships as possible,” he said.
“Every captain wants to win championships. That is what you play for, that’s what sport is all about. Having said that, I genuinely feel that we don’t want to put too much pressure on ourselves by overthinking this stuff.
“It will be nice if I can win one or two championships as and when I decide to move on from this job. The next five days will be quite challenging for us and gives us the opportunity to win the championship, but we do understand that winning the championship is not easy. You got to do a lot of things right to win.”
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